Army scientist works on biodefense detection and decontamination

Mary M. Wade, a supervisory biologist with the U.S. Army, described her team's work with biodefense decontamination and detection on Monday, including the team's use of novel decontamination gel technology.

Wade is the acting chief of the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center through the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command. Wade leads 20 scientists in an effort to research new technologies to counter bioweapons and to protect the nation from biological agents.

"Biodefense research is vital to continuing to protect the warfighter and the nation from potential threats," Wade said. "We have to be ready. We have to be able to respond, counter threats, and detect threats."

One technology the team is currently researching is a decontamination gel manufactured by CBI Polymers and funded through a cooperative research and development agreement with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

"The gel contains a disinfectant, and you can spray or paint it on objects or surfaces," Wade said. "It will kill and immobilize the agent within the gel. Once it dries, you can simply peel it off just like tape. It will remove and retain that threat agent."

The gel could be used for biological decontamination and radiological decontamination, as well as for surgeons in the field.

Wade said that these advances are meant to help the soldier, the end user of the products the team researches.

"Every day we are conducting research that yields data that is going into the development of new detection and decontamination technologies," Wade said. "We help to equip our warfighter with better tools, technologies and information to detect and counter biological threats."